Why build a local search app for iPhone when the Maps app already lets you find businesses and local attractions? Apple's Maps app doesn't use all the information that's available about businesses, doesn't show photos, reviews and other details. That's one of the reasons why Google decided to build an iPhone app called Google Places.
"We realize the importance of finding places you'll love while you're out and about, no matter what mobile device you use. And Places with Hotpot not only helps you find places near where you are, it gives you the best places to go for you by personalizing your search results," explains Google.
The application integrates with Google Hotpot and uses your ratings and your friends' ratings to recommend other places. Google Places encourages users to rate businesses and to post reviews in order to get better search results and that's an interesting proposition. What's missing from the app is a list of business you've previously rated and the Hotpot feed that's now available on Google Maps.
Geo services are one of the key Google assets and it's very likely that Google will use them to create a stealth social network. Google Maps is probably the best mapping service and one of the most popular local search engines, so the social layer will have an important user base. Unlike Google Buzz, Hotpot doesn't have privacy issues yet and it doesn't feel like a different app because it's properly integrated with Google Maps.
Google Places for iOS can be installed from the Apple App Store and it's only available in English.